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Barnstable – our haven from Hitler


Why I'm grateful to Adolf Hitler
Brian Aldiss Writer
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So, that was more or less... well, it wasn't the end of childhood, but I was then sent to a public school in Suffolk. It was called Framlingham College, and I hate to talk about it.

I was in Junior School and Junior School was largely protected from the larger school which was a hive of homosexuality, and I was terrified by it. And I think that many of my companions in the Junior School were also terrified, because it was their fate to be shovelled up there.

But something came along to rescue me, and this is why I am forever grateful to Adolf Hitler. Good old Adolf – he declared war. And the result was my father, quite sensibly, thought that if Hitler's armies invaded England, they would naturally land in Gorleston-on-Sea, where he had quarrelled. His father had died in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and what was that grandfather's last words? Summoning up the whole beastliness of the Aldiss family, he said to my father, 'You'll have to fight your own battles now, Stanley'. You don't forget a telling phrase like that. I was there when he said it.

So, my father did fight his own battles, but he lost out to his much more sinister brother, okay. Now this brother... I won't mention his name... he was married to a lady called Dorothy, and my mother hated Dorothy and feared her. But I liked Dorothy, and I think she possibly liked me, so that I would often go round to their house – utterly forbidden, of course. And there, Aunt Dorothy had a large table in their elegant drawing room, with huge jigsaw puzzles, which she and I would do together.

And so, yes, it was crossing frontiers, actually. But, we had left. My father had lost his battles and we lived in Gorleston-on-Sea... the happiest year of my life! My sister and I would go barefoot down the road, across the road, over the promenade down to the beach and the promenade down there. And that was just… just gorgeous, and I suppose we had about a year there.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Gorleston-on-Sea, Adolf Hitler

Duration: 3 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015